Monday, April 16, 2007

Another Tragically Predictable Tragedy?

It lessens the horror not one iota and I take no pride in a prescience borne from long experience, but I will not be surprised in the least that the wacko who gunned down 32 people on the Virginia Tech campus this morning before killed himself was a white male armed with street legal weapons who was not part of a well-regulated militia but had a head full of problems.

It is probable that no gun law would have prevented the rampage at the Blacksburg, Virginia, university, so let's dispose with the "It Could Have Been Prevented" fiction right away.

Although it’s a piece of cake to buy every weapon used in recent mass shootings in Virginia and most other states, including the .9mm handgun and .22-caliber pistol that the Virginia Tech shooter apparently used, he probably had no criminal record that might have alerted authorities to him. And as experience shows, head cases have a way of getting weapons no matter how tough local laws are.
Face it, after years of head banging by gun-control advocates on the federal, state and municipal levels, the U.S. remains pretty much one big Wild West town when it comes to the sale, possession and use of guns.

Pro-gun advocates use the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as their fig leaf. What the Constitution doesn't say is that the rights of gun owners trump the rights of everyone else, most poignantly those dead and wounded Virginia Tech students.
It is my view that for all intents and purposes, gun control is dead in America.

* * * * *
It's been a while since any national story affected me as deeply as the Nickel Mines Massacre and now the Virginia Tech Massacre.

I still find myself becoming teary eyed when I think of those young Amish innocents, whose faith teaches them to turn the other check, but not to expect the violent world around them to beat a path to their school house door. Same goes for the young men and women mowed down in a dormitory and classroom.

Besides which, I take the issue of gun control personal, as they say in Philadelphia street parlance, because I believe the proliferation of guns is a public-health emergency every bit as great as killer obesity or cancer.

The first time I was shot at was while covering the urban riots that followed the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King in April 1968. I got my gun ya-yas out in the Army. But I lived on a farm for many years, and having a gun was a neccessity. (Killing rabid raccoons, putting down sick animals, chasing off paramours lusting after the farmer's daughter. You get the idea.)

I also saw more than my share of what guns can do during a long career in big-city journalism, including what another wacko, John Hinckley, did to Jim Brady, an acquaintance and fellow baseball fanatic who took one for President Reagan.

Jim was the inspiration for the Brady Handgun Control Act, widely known as the Brady Bill, the only gun-control bill with any teeth to pass muster in Congress in forever.

Under the bill, prospective buyers of handguns were required to wait for five days and pass a criminal background check before a sale could be approved. Reagan remained close to Brady, but to the eternal shame of president and Republican Party, it was Bill Clinton who finally signed the Brady Bill in 1993.
The five-day waiting period expired in 1998 and was replaced by a computerized criminal background check prior to any firearm purchase from a dealer holding a Federal Firearms License (FFL). Dealers not FFL worthy can do as they please so long as they don’t violate state law, which in many states is a joke.

* * * * *
What do I mean when I say that gun control is dead in America?

Simply this:
In most civilized countries, packing heat is not a right and none of those countries have murder rates remotely as high as the U.S.

But there are many millions of guns out there, and there is no way that is going to change without an authoritarian government. Yes, the Bush administration would seem to qualify, but it is slavishly pro-gun. Oh, well.

It is my view that the National Rifle Association is a terrorist organization. Not as overtly so as Al Qaeda, but the NRA shares responsibility for the slaughter from guns in America because of its extraordinary power and unflinching unwillingness to consider that the rights of gun owners occasionally have to be subsumed by others -- be they Amish schoolgirls in Pennsylvania, abused wives in rural Nebraska or colleges students in Virginia.
The only thing for sure is that the carnage will continue.

Guns and gun crime. They're as American as apple pie.

Photo by Alan Kim/The Roanoke Times via Associated Press


Anonymous said...

I had the same debate this morning with my father-in-law who is in town visiting.

I think it is reasonable that we inact some kind of gun control. Not that it stops 100% of every gun death for ever, but that it may stop 1%, or hinder 2% of run related atrocities. But even my father-in-law, no gun 'lover' thinks it would do no good. His rational "well drugs are illegal, and that doesn't stop people from getting them." Interesting point, because I DO think drug laws area waste of money - for the most part. And certainly pot should be legalized (no more dangerous then alcohol it seems to me) but I'm not sure about allwoing narcotics to be legalized...

Ugh. It seems clear to me that we must work towards some kind of gun laws, I'm just not sure if his country ever will.

The thing that struck me this monring was that all the gun related murders in this country are part of a bigger issue. Of a country that is (to some extent) rotting from the inside out. The 'free market' at all costs, the constant ringing of the individuals rights bell no matter the cost to ther people, and the environment, the military parade that passes for foreign policy...perhaps all signs of the illness.

Anonymous said...

It is becoming horribly embarrassing to be an American: crime, guns, health care lack, death penalty, torture.
Nothing works perfectly, and every law will be froken, but something has to be done to stop the ever more frequent killing sprees.

I wish I could think of a way to break the back of the gun lobby. I wish there were a way to shame them.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your post 100%. There are 200 million guns in America now and no amount of gun control legislation is going to make any difference. The US has become insanely violent and I think it is only going to get worse. I am an American but live in a country now where there are no guns-and the crime rates reflect that. The NRA is enormously powerful and well financed and the politicians, Demo's and Rep's alike are not going to take a cut in prospective contributions just to support safer streets. Their corruption is responsible for events like those at Virginia Tech yesterday.